What Pharmacists Should Know About the Tide Pod Challenge

JANUARY 28, 2018
There is a dangerous new trend that has emerged across the country, known as the “Tide Pod Challenge.”  Teenagers have been posting videos of themselves eating Tide Pods on social media outlets such as , and challenging others to follow this trend. The videos have become viral and show teenagers chewing and gagging on the pods and even cooking them. Social media sites are taking down the videos and prohibiting individuals from posting further ones.   Pharmacists can play an important role in educating parents and teenagers about the dangers of ingesting Tide Pods.

Here are facts pharmacists should know about the “Tide Pod Challenge:”

Ingesting Tide Pods can lead to serious health consequences.
Unintentional ingestion of the pods first emerged among children 5 years of age and younger.1 Parents are urged to place these products out of reach of young children as they are highly concentrated and look very similar to candy. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that households with young children use traditional laundry detergent instead of pods.2 Ingestion of pods can lead to serious adverse effects such as seizures, pulmonary edema, respiratory arrest, coma, and even death.1 

Laundry pods are highly concentrated with chemicals.
Laundry pod ingredients may vary by manufacturer, but they generally consist of ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, and polymers.3 What makes laundry pods different than regular detergent is that the pods are highly concentrated. The film that surrounds the pod is thin and specifically designed to dissolve in water from the washing machine. When the pods are ingested, they will dissolve in the mouth leading to a vast array of serious adverse effects.  Teenagers ingesting these pods are at an increased risk of aspirating vomit into the lungs. This cascade of effects can also damage the central nervous system leading to a quick death.

Single-load laundry packet ingestion is on the rise among teens in 2018.
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), intentional ingestion of single-load laundry packets among 13-19 year olds is on the rise.1  In 2016 and 2017 there were 53 cases of intentional exposures.1  This number has increased alarmingly to 119 teenagers since January 1, 2018.1  Exposures are likely even higher as some may not be reported to the AAPCC.  Proctor & Gamble, the manufacturer of Tide Pods, has launched a public safety campaign to prevent misuse of the laundry pods.  With the high number of intentional and accidental ingestions, manufacturers should consider discontinuing these products.
 
Pharmacists can play an important role in poison prevention.
Pharmacists can create poison prevention programs in high schools and colleges to help raise awareness on the health consequences of ingesting Tide Pods.  Parents of teens and young children should be educated to avoid using the pods and similar products and stick with regular detergent.  If the single-load laundry packets continue to be used, then they should be locked away and kept out of reach of children and teenagers.  Encourage parents and teens to have the Poison Help line number 1-800-222-1222 on hand for poison emergencies related to Tide Pods.

References
  1. American Association of Poison Control Centers.  Intentional exposures among teens to single-load laundry packets.  .  Accessed January 27, 2018.
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics.  Laundry detergent pods can be a serious poisoning risk in children.  .   Accessed January 27, 2018.
  3. Consumer Reports.  What eating a laundry pod can do to you.  .  Accessed January 27, 2018.


Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh, received her PharmD degree from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Pharmacy in 2006 and completed a 2-year drug information residency. She served as a pharmacy professor at NSU’s College of Pharmacy for 6 years, managed the drug information center, and conducted medication therapy management reviews. Dr. Gershman has published research on prescription drug abuse, regulatory issues, and drug information in various scholarly journals. Additionally, she received the Sheriff’s Special Recognition Award for her collaboration with the Broward, Florida Sheriff’s Office to prevent prescription drug abuse through a drug disposal program. She has also presented at pharmacist and physician continuing education programs on topics that include medication errors, prescription drug abuse, and legal and regulatory issues. Dr. Gershman can be followed on Twitter @jgershman2
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